Strengthen Cooperation to Advance the Belt and Road Initiative*
July 10, 2018
Sino-Arab friendship is time-honored and strong as ever. The Chinese and Arab peoples, though far apart in distance, are close like a family. Our ancestors, merchants and diplomatic envoys alike, traveled back and forth along the overland and maritime Silk Roads. In the modern era, we fought side by side for independence and liberation. We also gave each other strong support in development, creating a splendid chapter of win-win cooperation. Past and present experiences have proved that whatever changes may take place in the world and whatever obstacles may confront us, China and Arab states have always been good partners, sharing mutual benefit, and good brothers, going through thick and thin together.
To facilitate the common prosperity and progress of interested countries, China has put forward the Belt and Road Initiative. With a commitment to the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, this initiative focuses on promoting policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity. It has attracted wide support and active participation from the Arab world and the broader international community. As important participants and co-creators of the ancient Silk Road civilization located at the juncture of the overland and maritime Silk Roads, Arab states are natural partners in Belt and Road cooperation.
Belt and Road cooperation features prominently in the Arab Policy Paper issued by the Chinese government. The Arab League Council at the level of foreign ministers has adopted a resolution expressing the collective political will of Arab states to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative. It is expected that later during this ministerial conference, a Declaration of Action on China-Arab States Belt and Road Cooperation will be signed.
Over the past four years, China and Arab states have worked together to develop Belt and Road cooperation in the light of regional realities, to combine collective action with bilateral cooperation, and to promote development while upholding peace. Complementing each other's strengths and pursuing win-win results, we have delivered benefits to people both in our region and beyond. As various projects attest, a dynamic situation has been created and many fruits harvested in our Belt and Road cooperation.
Also over the past four years, Belt and Road cooperation has energized every dimension of Sino-Arab relations and propelled all-round Sino-Arab cooperation into a new phase. In this context, I am pleased to announce that after friendly consultation between the two sides, we have agreed to establish a Sino-Arab future-oriented strategic partnership of comprehensive cooperation and common development. This marks a new historic milestone in Sino-Arab friendship and cooperation.
As we advance the Belt and Road Initiative, China stands ready to work with the Arab side to coordinate our development strategies and actions. We must strive to uphold peace and stability in the Middle East, safeguard fairness and justice, promote common development, and learn from each other as friends do. This joint commitment will help us build a community of shared future for China and Arab states, and one for all of humanity.
First, China and Arab states need to strengthen strategic trust. A Chinese adage has it that "a just world should be pursued for the common good"1. The Middle East faces the urgent task of removing the barriers to peace and resolving the development conundrum. People in the region yearn for peace and development. Having formulated its Middle East policy in line with such yearnings, China is an advocate of the legitimate concerns of Arab states in the international arena and stands ready to play a bigger role for peace and stability in the region.
We must stay committed to dialogue and consultation. Many intractable issues in the Middle East must be addressed by all stakeholders together. They should not and cannot be decided by one party alone. We need to uphold the principle of sovereignty and oppose division and fragmentation. We need to champion inclusive reconciliation and stand against forced compromises. We need to fight terrorism and take well-coordinated actions to improve people's lives.
China is ready for more dialogue and consultation with Arab states on a wide range of topics such as development for peace, collective security, humanitarian assistance, shipping corridors, and a nuclear-weapon-free zone. I hereby announce that China is setting up a special program for economic reconstruction through industrial revitalization. Under this program, a credit line of US$20 billion will be extended, in accordance with commercial principles, to projects that will produce good employment opportunities and positive social impact in Arab states that have reconstruction needs. China will provide an additional RMB600 million of assistance to the peoples of Syria, Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon to meet their humanitarian and reconstruction needs. China will also discuss with regional countries the implementation of programs totaling RMB1 billion to help interested countries build up capacity for maintaining stability.
Second, China and Arab states need to help each other realize dreams of rejuvenation. The Arab world is strategically located and blessed with abundant energy resources. With our strong complementarity and converging interests, China and Arab states must synergize our development strategies in pursuit of our respective dreams of rejuvenation.
In this effort, we must stay focused on connectivity. China welcomes opportunities to participate in the development of ports and the construction of railway networks in Arab states, and support Arab efforts in building a logistics network connecting Central Asia with East Africa, and the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean. We need to work together to build a maritime cooperation center to boost the ocean industry, enhance our ability to provide ocean-related public services, and create a "blue economy corridor". The two sides may jointly build a Belt and Road space information corridor, strengthen aerospace cooperation, and enable Arab states to access China's BeiDou Navigation System and meteorological satellite remote-sensing technology for the good of their national development.
China and Arab states need to boost cooperation in the oil and gas and low-carbon energy sectors, which are the main drivers of our energy cooperation. We will continue our "oil and gas-plus" model and intensify energy cooperation across the entire industrial chain, which includes oil and gas exploration, extraction, refinery, storage and transportation. At the same time, given the surging global energy revolution and the boom in green and low-carbon industries, we need to work more closely on peaceful uses of nuclear energy and in the solar, wind and hydro power sectors. These efforts will lead to an energy cooperation structure which is underpinned by oil and gas and reinforced by nuclear and clean energy sectors. Based on this structure, we can build a strategic partnership in energy sectors that delivers mutual benefits and fosters long-term friendship.
Financial cooperation must go in tandem with cooperation in new and high technologies. We need to explore how best new and high technologies and financial services can facilitate our cooperation and provide short- and long-term support for the Belt and Road. To this end, we must find a model that suits the needs and conditions of the Middle East.
China supports the establishment of a financial platform for industrial cooperation. The platform is expected to offer access to diverse sources of funding for the development of industrial parks and provide an enabling environment for enterprises to grow in these parks through its financial support and other services. The Chinese government supports Chinese financial and securities institutions in partnering with Arab states' sovereign wealth funds and regulatory bodies to build an international trading platform that is based in the Gulf region, serves the Middle East and North Africa, and attracts investors from around the globe. This platform can be an enabler of Belt and Road cooperation by facilitating the free flow of production factors, efficient allocation of resources and deep integration of markets. To stimulate more exchanges and cooperation between financial institutions, China will set up a Sino-Arab inter-bank association and equip it with a credit line of US$3 billion.
In relation to the medium- to long-term development plans followed by Arab states, China will pursue closer cooperation in the digital economy, artificial intelligence, new materials, biopharma and smart cities. We need to fully implement our science and technology partnership program and build joint laboratories in key areas of mutual interest. We also need to accelerate our work on a cyber Silk Road, and strive for more cooperation, consensus, and outcomes in internet infrastructure, big data, cloud computing and e-commerce.
Third, China and Arab states need to achieve win-win outcomes. With a commitment to deeper reform in all areas, to continuing its fundamental policy of opening up, and to pursuing development with its doors wide open, China is expected to import over US$8 trillion of goods and make over US$750 billion of outbound investment in the next five years. This will bring more opportunities and real benefits to Arab states. We need to fully leverage special and concessional loans in support of industrialization in the Middle East, and encourage more Chinese business involvement in the development and operation of industrial parks in Arab states to boost industrial clusters there. China looks forward to the participation of Arab states in the First China International Import Expo in Shanghai this November, and in the course of the next five years China will invite all Arab states to the Expo and its country pavilions for trade and investment. China will work for solid progress in its FTA negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council and with Palestine, and stands ready to explore with more Arab states the possibility of concluding comprehensive free trade agreements.
Fourth, China and Arab states need to promote inclusiveness and mutual learning. A civilization stays vibrant through constant interactions with other civilizations. The Chinese and the Arab civilizations, sharing a long history of mutually reinforcing exchanges, have all the more reason to draw wisdom and strength from each other in this day and age. I am glad to note that the Sino-Arab Research Center on Reform and Development that I proposed is operating well as an intellectual platform for experience sharing on reform, opening up and governance. I wish the center still greater success in providing more intellectual support to both sides.
We must spread the message of peace, harmony and truth. One way to do that is to make a continuing success of the Roundtable on Sino-Arab Inter-civilization Dialogue and Eradication of Extremism. Efforts should be made to clear up misunderstandings through dialogue, solve disagreements through tolerance, and foster a wholesome environment in which genuine faith and good deeds prevail. We need to delve deeper into different religions for ideas of greater harmony and positivity, and interpret religious teachings in the context of progressing times. It is important that we work together to cultivate a healthy cyber culture to oppose the spread of extremist content and hate speech through the internet.
To enhance mutual understanding between the Chinese and Arab people, China will do the following for Arab states in the coming three years: invite 100 young leaders in innovation, 200 young scientists, and 300 science professionals to workshops in China; invite 100 religious leaders and 600 political party leaders to China; provide 10,000 training opportunities; and send 500 medical staff to Arab states.
To this end, I am glad to announce the official launch of a Sino-Arab press center, a Sino-Arab e-library portal and the Fourth Arab Art Festival co-hosted by the two sides in China.
* Part of the speech at the opening ceremony of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum.
1 Book of Rites (LiJi).
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)